By Jennifer Ebert published
Dining room ideas should be at the forefront of your home ideas, especially if you are a keen entertainer. Our elegant dining room decorating solutions and expert advice are here to inspire you, whether you're designing a formal entertaining space or creating a distinct zone within an open-plan layout.
Everyone knows the best conversations happen over a meal, whether it is with family, a partner, or friends, so having somewhere to sit and eat is an important element to consider when designing your home.
These dining rooms have been designed with both practicality and looks in mind – comfortable and welcoming, they will cater to both dinner parties and every day dining for the family.
Dining room ideas
From colorful banqueting rooms to open-plan farmhouse kitchens, these dining room ideas will help you dream up a space that's as beautiful to look at as it is relaxing to eat in.
1. Don’t be afraid of color
Even if your dining room is a formal space, that doesn’t mean you can’t have some serious fun with your color palette. A room that is used for special occasions cries out for a maximalist approach to color, as demonstrated in this space, where color bursts from every corner of her small dining room ideas. The home of designer Liz Caan, the space features a teal velvet dining sofa is paired with lime green upholstered chairs, while the Gucci wallpaper introduces gold and pink accents, echoed in the mauve table lamps.
2. Mix and match styles for a personal touch
Chiefly entertaining guests, dining rooms are spaces where you have the chance to really showcase your personality to visitors. Make it unique by pulling together your favorite pieces, regardless of era or style. In this dining room by designer Sarah Stacey, white walls make for a chic backdrop to a monolithic oak table, abstract artwork on the walls, modern metal chairs, a candle chandelier with a contemporary twist, a Persian-style rug and blown glass vases heading up the dining table decor ideas.
3. Keep it light and bright with Scandi style
For modern dining room ideas, look to Scandinavia for inspiration. Designer Ginny Macdonald looked to northern European design when planning this open-plan kitchen and dining space, including direct inspiration from Noma chef Rene Redzepi’s personal kitchen in Copenhagen. In the dining room, a light and bright approach sees white walls laced with white oak and teak furniture, and punctuated with black accents in the chairs and sputnik chandelier. Color is applied deftly and subtly through soft furnishings including a woven rug.
4. Play with scale
A dining room is a good space to play with scale in interior design, particularly when it comes to mixing patterns in a room in different proportions.
'When choosing pattern into your modern dining room ideas – you also need to take into account scale. Scale is important and can really help pull an idea together, the main thing being to mix the scales from large to small,' says designer Charlotte Gaisford. 'Within the scale idea you also need to think about what type of pattern you want to use.'
5. Frame the dining table with art
‘The dining room has become the social hub of the home,' explains interior designer, Emma Sims Hilditch. 'Opt for natural tones such as soft browns, gentle greys and creamy nudes which serve as a beautiful base for interchangeable soft furnishings. Try adding bright patterned cushions to a dining room chair, or colorful artwork to a bare wall.' In this room, grey dining room ideas have been warmed up by brown wooden furniture and an abstract artwork filled with fiery oranges and reds.
6. Set a stylish table
When working out how to dress a dining table, choose a centerpiece that’s either lower than or well above the eyeline, as visual communication is essential at dinner parties. ‘Almost anything can work, from floral arrangements to existing ornaments, but ensure there’s a common theme, such as animals or birds,’ advises Clifford Williams, Display Manager at Thomas Goode. ‘Keep the focus on the table with candlesticks, votives and low-level background lighting.’
7. Create a comforting environment with earthy pinks
When it comes to dining room color ideas, the world really is your oyster – depending on the formality of the space you have licence to be dramatic, soft or somewhere in between. For a statement color that soothes rather than invigorates, consider on trend earthy pinks. Their comforting nature and maternal connotations provide a cozy environment for dining, imparting a sense of nourishment and tender loving care unto guests.
8. Give your guests a view
When planning an open plan kitchen, dining and living space, getting the location right for each of your ‘zones’ is crucial to its success. If you have a large windowed area like in this example, consider making it the backdrop for dinners with friends, and giving your guests a view that harnesses many of the benefits of outdoor dining. Harness natural light for breakfast too – there’s no better way to start the day.
9. Create a cocooning feeling with densely patterned wallpaper
Wallpaper is practically made for dining rooms – for a statement pattern that helps make a grand room feel intimate, opt for a smaller format print. While large prints will add dynamism to a small space, intricate motifs used generously will bring the walls inwards. In this modern rustic dining room by Murphy Deesign, a William Morris print with a dark blue base covers all four walls of the large space, helping it feel cozier.
10. Introduce a splash of color into a country dining room for a touch of modernity
If the neutral dining room ideas you have been browsing have lacked a spark, add a sprinkling of bright primary colors and create a statement with a single piece in a vivid hue.
Here, a brightly painted chair delivers drama and works as a wonderful focal point. The block of color in the yellow artwork and glossy finish of the red chair bring an unexpected extra dimension and vibrance to the calm, natural, country feel of this relaxed dining space.
11. Add checkerboard flooring for a smart monochrome look
A chic, black and white checkerboard flooring adds impact to a calm, neutral scheme. The monochrome palette combined with warm wooden furniture creates an inviting dining room.
Not only do classic black and white floor tiles add an effortlessly sophisticated feel to a room, but these vinyl tiles are a practical and fuss free option for a much used family space. This flooring choice has enduring appeal and will never go out of style.
12. Create a sense of occasion with dramatic furnishings
Just two well-chosen elements – the mural and lighting fitting – give this dining room huge impact. The monotone color scheme is enlivened – and made more glamorous – with the touches of gold, which also warm the otherwise cool space. Upholstered chairs add a luxurious feeling of comfort, which invites diners to linger, while the round table enhances sociability.
13. Plan a coordinated look for an open-plan dining room
Large open plan rooms have their pluses and minuses; it’s fantastic having plenty of space for that much-desired airy, open feel, however it can be a struggle making everything work together harmoniously. The easiest way to achieve a coordinated look is to keep the colors similar throughout – pick one or two key colors and make sure they appear in both ends of the room.
14. Add a round table for a sociable dining room
Create a sociable and relaxing atmosphere in your dining room with a circular table; it’s less formal, plus you can squeeze in extra chairs and stools if need be. And when you’re finished entertaining? You can tuck the table away in a corner – making it the perfect choice for a small dining room.
15. Make room for elegant, comfortable dining in a kitchen
Even very small spaces can often accommodate an open-plan dining room. In a compact kitchen, consider using banquette seating, fitted into a corner or even on one side of an island, to create a cozy dining spot.
16. Build a dining area into a bay window to maximize space
In living areas, try using the space creatively: window seating can be combined with a table for impromptu dining, while extendable tables can provide multi-functional space.
17. Make the most of a narrow space
Hallways and studies can also work well as dining areas. Consider a narrow table in a large hall, while a study or book-filled library with a table at its center can create atmospheric dining options.
18. Pick a moody shade for evening-only dining rooms
If you're looking for dining room ideas for spaces that are really only used in the 9, you can dare to go darker. A room that's lit by candlelight, when painted in a moody shade, will feel so much more intimate and atmosphere than one that's a pale shade. Here, the texture and colors of the rug make this blue dining room feel more inviting and warmer – an important factor if you are decorating with a cool tone.
19. Create a fun feel for a family dining room
A decorative oilcloth makes a practical alternative to a traditional fabric tablecloth; this striking world map design has been stapled into place for a neat finish. Add an old school map on the wall to continue the cartographic theme.
20. Pick dining furniture in wood for warmth
If you want a dining table but don’t have space for a large traditional style, why not choose a small, round, bistro one? It will be a perfect place to sit and have your morning coffee and croissant, as well as adding a little Parisian chic to a previously unused corner of your small dining room.
21. Be bold with your decor
If yours is a separate dining room, it is the perfect opportunity to consider bold dining room color schemes or decorative scheme that might be overwhelming in a living space you use all the time. A stand-out wallpaper will create an exuberant space, as will a boldly painted piece of furniture – or a beautiful, curvaceous piece, such as the dining table in this beautiful room by Rapture & Wright at The Fabric Collective.
22. Create a window seat banquette for a relaxed look
Make the most of every nook, and the architectural features of your home, by utilising a window seat as dining seating. The built-in bench on one side of the table will save space, as they are flush with the wall. To avoid the set-up looking too unbalanced, choose non-bulky folding chairs for the side opposite the window in your farmhouse dining room.
23. Hang a feature light over the dining table
It is worth devising lighting schemes early on, allowing for functional down lighters, and more decorative fittings. An oversized light suspended above a dining table helps to delineate the space. Ask your electrician to wire zones on different circuits so you can adjust the mood. Wherever possible, try to accentuate natural light. If you have a double-height space or, a single-storey extension, consider installing skylights or a roof lantern.
24. Ensure light shed on the table is warm
There’s nothing like a large table to create a warm, friendly and often lively atmosphere in the kitchen. However, layout will be dictated to some extent by the shape and footprint of your dining room and may mean a separate table and chairs aren’t workable. Instead a split-level peninsular may suit the space and still achieve the social focal point you have in mind. Weigh up a variety of options: a full table, breakfast bar or a small perch point on the end of a run of cabinets. The dining element could even be a full feature area, stretching along the back of an island.
25. Introduce color and pattern with fabric
'Chairs, rugs and window treatments are a great way to introduce color and character to a dining room, so pops of color and a mix of materials will add some personality to the interior,' says Head of Retail & Commercial Design at Life Kitchens, Graeme Smith.
26. Create the right ambience in your dining room
‘If you’re using also using the dining room as a work space, we’d recommend you install recessed dowlighters for brightness,’ says Chris Jordan, Managing Director at Christoper Wray Lighting. ‘Directional downlighter are best for diverting the light to where it is needed most.’ For a flexible, layered effect put all your lighting on dimmers and separate circuits.
27. Bring texture to the dining room with natural materials
A wood-rich dining room creates a warm, welcoming atmosphere, as we've already mentioned above. However, you can max out this effect by not just choosing wooden flooring and furniture, but by choosing wooden panelling ideas for walls, too.
For anyone looking for modern dining room ideas, the fluted panelling style above is the perfect way to introduce wood in a contemporary way, with the vertical lines creating a neat visual trick, too, of making the room's ceiling look higher.
28. Consider dining room storage
If your dining room is on the bijou side, go for unity when selecting storage. A mishmash of furniture styles will create discord and, as the space will probably be used for entertaining, it should be as calm and inviting as possible.
Opting for built-in pieces and making the most of recesses are good ways to achieve a clutter-free look. ‘You could have open shelves to display ornate items and practical custom-built drawers for cutlery and tableware,’ says Alan Borra, Designer at Neville Johnson.
29. Retain an open-plan feel
‘Think about what you will use the dining room for,’ says Pam Cox, owner of Ham Interiors. ‘If it will be almost entirely dedicated to dining, it’s crucial to leave enough room between the seating and other furniture to allow people to get to and from the table with ease.
'Where space is limited, you may have to sacrifice storage to retain an open feel. Attempting to squeeze in too much could detract from the overall look and function of the space, so consider what is really necessary.’
30. Pick traditional lighting and furniture to add character
‘Bear in mind that people tend to be seated in a dining room so the lighting must be at eye level be effective,’ says Lucy Martin, Design Director at John Cullen. ‘Wall lights, picture lights and lamps will help to achieve a soft, intermediate intensity. Lighting should also be sufficiently bright for guests to see and to enjoy the food and conversation, so make it adjustable via dimmers.’
Opt for a pendant light, too, as a dining room looks best with a focal point over the table. It needs to be carefully positioned; too high and the light won’t illuminate the table, too low and you could obstruct the views of your guests.
31. Pick warm colors for a welcoming dining room
Dining room colors should be selected on two factors: the effect you want to create on diners and the time of day you tend to use the room. So, while a dining space within an open-plan kitchen diner or a dining room that's used by the family morning, noon and night will be best in a pale, light-reflecting color, one that's used in the evenings only and that should glow with warm, inviting light, is often best decorated in a warm shade.
We love this dining room idea: the room complements the space it leads off from and its rust-colored walls are both on trend and welcoming.
32. Choose pale colors for a breakfast dining room
If you are searching for dining room ideas for a space you will mainly use for breakfast or lunch, picking fresh, pale colors will make it an inspiring space to be. To keep the room light, pick furniture that's delicate, streamlined and even translucent – this is particularly important if you are looking for small dining room ideas.
33. Frame the dining table with an accent wall
Accent wall ideas are really useful in dining rooms if you can use them on the wall opposite the door to the space to frame the dining table in a dramatic way.
In this dining room, styled for a Homes & Gardens decorating shoot by Alyce Taylor, Fromental’s Braque wallpaper is layered with painted chairs to create an intricately intriguing space.
Charu Gandhi, Founder and Director of UK-based interior design studio Elicyon, has used Fromental designs in her projects. She says: ‘Wallpaper can bring the perfect depth and materiality to space, both when the room is bijoux and when it has scale. Start by what you want the wallpaper to celebrate or tackle, then the tone and scale, and on to the pattern and detail.'
34. Create a formal dining room with symmetry
Symmetry in interior design is used to create balance, calm and neatness. If you are creating a dining room that you want to feel formal, you can use this interior design device to make your room elegant and smart.
‘Symmetry provides balance within a room and it often starts from the focal point, whether that be a fireplace in the sitting room or the headboard in a bedroom,' says Liv Wallers from British design studio, Yellow London. 'It can be used right down to the smaller details of the room, cushions on the sofa to lamps on a dresser.’
Here, the starting point is the window, with the rug and dining table using it as a central point.
35. Embrace cottagecore for a relaxed dining room
The Swedish house trend is, we predict, an enduringly popular look that's a sophisticated combination of vintage and country styles. It's perfect for a dining room and will work in contemporary spaces just as well as in country cottages or period homes. Ideally, choose colors that are reflective of nature – warmer shades like those in the room above are wonderful for creating a welcoming dining room, especially one that might be north-facing and that receives little natural daylight.
36. Display your favorite china
Displaying china is one way to add interest and color to a dining room, plus of course, it can solve a kitchen storage problem in one hit. Combine the china with other favorite objets, including sculpture, glassware and even books, for a look that's carefully curated.
37. Keep to fresh palette of green and white
It’s one of nature’s favorite color combinations and this classic pairing looks every bit as good inside. Use fabrics and accessories in a palette of apple, mint and emerald perfectly evoke the distinctive charm of England’s verdant landscape.
38. Carve out a dining area from an underused space
Not all dining rooms need to be opulent, extravagant spaces. A simple dining area in a large kitchen might be all you need for casual dining. Keep the color palette the same as the rest of the space for a unified, cohesive look. If your space is on the small side, then opt for armless chairs or benches which can be neatly tucked under a table.
39. Put it on display
When not in use, dining tables make for the most wonderful display surfaces. With a little effort they can be transformed into a mini exhibition space for gathered collectibles, which can then be whisked away when the table is called into action for entertaining.
Ben Pentreath demonstrates how to best dress a ‘resting’ table in this scheme that he designed for a flat in Chelsea, London. The bottle green French velvet that covers the white gesso framed Louis XVI chairs is picked up by the collection of glass candlesticks and resin lamp bases on the table and the dresser behind. Also important to this room is the display of artwork on the walls; the symmetrical arrangement brings order and structure.
40. Enjoy the view with a window seat
Banquettes not only provide ample seating, but also take up less space than chairs. ‘When designing banquettes we like to maximize space by adding storage,’ says interior designer Rebecca Hughes. ‘It’s also an opportunity to add pattern through scatter cushions.’
41. Take a flexible approach with a round table
Circular tables are space-saving and ideal for corners or in smaller open-plan rooms, as demonstrated in this design by Sophie Ashby of Studio Ashby and architect Giles Quarme. ‘This is somewhere you can entertain, work or just read the paper and relax,’ says Sophie.
42. Introduce a seasonal touch
‘When it comes to dining room decorations, opt for natural, earthy tones for a welcoming backdrop,’ says Emily Dunstan, home buyer at Heal’s. ‘Wreaths aren’t just for doors: create a display to draw eyes upwards and use lights, eucalyptus and dried orange to add magic.’
43. Paper the wall with pattern and color
Using bold prints on walls will create a strong impression in a dining room and give the space a creative, cocooning atmosphere. Katharine Paravicini chose this striking Pierre Frey design. ‘The client wanted a statement, and it did just that,’ she says.
44. Raise the bar
‘Introducing a bar area within a dining room not only creates the perfect opportunity for after dinner drinks, but on a more practical level it adds useful storage to conceal the less decorative and more habitually used tableware and practical accessories,’ says Clara Ewart, head of design at Kitesgrove.
‘Painting the joinery in the same color as the walls creates a sleek and minimalist look, one that does not distract the eye away from the design of the rest of the space,’ she adds. Opting for a dark and moody color, such as the rich blue shade used here, results in an impactful and contrasting backdrop for favorite glassware or serveware or a collection of decorative objects.
45. Add decorative dining room lighting
A dining room is a great space to incorporate statement pendant lighting. ‘We often advise clients to be brave with scale, especially in rooms with high ceilings,’ says interior designer Emma Sims- Hilditch. ‘This fills the space and adds an element of drama.’
How can I decorate my dining room?
'Think carefully about how you intend to use the space,' advises Graeme Smith, Senior Designer at Second Nature and 1909 Kitchens. 'Is the dining area for informal snacks, having a coffee and reading the paper? Or will it be the key meeting point in the home where family congregate for meals or perhaps doubling as a place to catch up on paperwork?'
Invest in the best tableware you can afford, but don’t be seduced by unnecessary pieces; just buy what you need for your style of entertaining. Select dual-purpose items; for example a soup plate can also be used for pasta. Above all, choose what you love and collect slowly. That way, you will enjoy your tableware for life.
'If you want to mix and match tableware, key items such as linen and charger plates should remain constant as you experiment with the color, shape and pattern of china,’ explains Clifford Williams, Display Manager at Thomas Goode. ‘The current trend is for an eclectic mix with a sense of “organised chaos."’
Paint and wallpaper are great ways to give your dining space character and personality. According to Interior Designer Roselind Wilson. 'A good way to create an intimate space for dining is to choose a rich, opulent color palette and use it on the ceiling too.’
What furniture do you put in a dining room?
Be fussy with furniture, especially in a compact dining room. Furniture can be a cumbersome business, especially in small rooms so it pays to arrange and buy items correctly.
One great way to make the most of a smaller space is by using multi-function furniture, like an extendable dining table, folding chairs, or chairs that can be neatly tucked under the table when not in use.
Another important pointer is to place large pieces of furniture against walls so the open space in the middle is not broken up. Scale the furniture to fit the size of the room and don’t block walking pathways – if you can see the floor, the room will look larger.
A great tip is to choose a dining table and chairs with open arms and exposed legs, both will keep the appearance of a much more open and free space, allowing light to filter under and around the furniture far easier.
In smaller homes, where space is tight, you might consider extending a worktop to create a breakfast bar or introduce a small circular table for informal dining.
How do you light a dining room?
Lighting is an immediate and effective zoning option for a dining room. It’s another tool that segments the different functionality of the space.
'Consider using soft but effective under lighting in the dining room, which allows sufficient light to put the final touches to one's food, but is discreet enough not to dominate,' advises Julie Paul, Head of Interior Design, OKA. 'Try a mixture of striking pendant lights, chic floor lamps and colorful table lights.’
Jennifer is the Digital Editor at Homes & Gardens. Having worked in the interiors industry for a number of years, spanning many publications, she now hones her digital prowess on the 'best interiors website' in the world. Multi-skilled, Jennifer has worked in PR and marketing, and the occasional dabble in the social media, commercial and e-commerce space.
Over the years, she has written about every area of the home, from compiling design houses from some of the best interior designers in the world to sourcing celebrity homes, reviewing appliances and even the odd news story or two.
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